Eco mob behind bars: Judge jails protesters for M25 travel chaos

17 November 2021, 10:45 | Updated: 17 November 2021, 17:21

Nine protesters from Insulate Britain have been jailed.
Nine protesters from Insulate Britain have been jailed. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Nine protesters from Insulate Britain have been jailed at the High Court for breaching an injunction designed to stop them protesting on the M25.

Six of the protesters were jailed for four months, two for three months and one protester - Ben Taylor - was given six months for his statement to the judge on Tuesday.

Mr Taylor told the High Court if he is "not put in prison" for breaching an injunction banning disruptive protests on the nation's roads, he will "go and block the motorway at the earliest opportunity and will continue to do so until the Government makes a meaningful statement and acts on it".

Dr Ben Buse, 36, Roman Paluch, 28, Oliver Roc, 41 and Emma Smart, 44, Tim Speers, 36, and James Thomas, 47, were all given four-month sentences.

Ana Heyatawin, 58 and Louis McKenchnie, 20, were jailed for three months.

Addressing the media afterwards, an activist said Smart intended to go on hunger strike after being jailed for four months.

Read more: Two months of chaos: A timeline of Insulate Britain's disruptive protests

All nine Insulate Britain protesters admitted breaching the injunction for their part in a blockade at junction 25 of the M25 on October 8.

Read more: 'Put me in prison or I'll block the motorway again' boasts defiant eco protester

Read more: Tougher punishments target Insulate Britain protesters using 'guerrilla' tactics

Myriam Stacey QC, representing the Government agency, said the injunction banning protest activity on the M25 motorway was granted by a High Court judge on September 21.

She told the court it was accepted by National Highways that the protests fell into the category of "civil disobedience".

Before the group were sentenced, Myriam Stacey QC said the legal costs of bringing proceedings against the nine activists had reached £91,000.

She argued the judges should make an order for the costs against the defendants and that, even if they are unable to pay them, such an order would be an "important symbol".

Read more: Eco protesters tell court they feel 'bullied' as £900k cost of blockades is revealed

She also said the agency had a duty to attempt to recover the costs, as they are from public funds.

Judge Dame Victoria Sharp said she and Mr Justice Chamberlain will give their decision on costs in writing at a later date.

Dame Victoria, sitting with Mr Justice Chamberlain, said there was no alternative to custodial sentences given the group's actions were so serious and they had made it clear they intended to further flout court orders.

She said: "The defendants, or some of them, seem to want to be martyrs for their cause and the media campaign surrounding this hearing appears designed to suggest this.

"We, however, have to act dispassionately and proportionately."

In sentencing, Dame Victoria said: “Significant harm has been done. None of you have demonstrated significant contrition.”

As the nine Insulate Britain protesters were taken down to the cells, their family and friends shouted "love you" and waved them off.

The group chanted "We are unstoppable. Another world is possible!" until stopped by the Judge.

Speaking after the sentencing, Insulate Britain said they had been "failed and betrayed by our government".

A spokesman said: "The 9 #InsulateBritain supporters were convicted of contempt of court for breaking the National Highways’ M25 injunction. Ana Heytawin and Louise McKecknie received sentences of three months, Ben Taylor, who had announced his intention to continue, received a sentence of six months.

"The nine chose not to standby and be complicit in genocide.

"We remain resolute and determined."